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Attending the Traditional Mass: Well Worth the Effort

Editor’s note: this was first published on March 20, 2015, under the pen name Benedict Constable, and is republished today under its author’s name.

Doing violence to one’s family heritage is always bad, it can never be good. No less is this true of the Church, the Family of God, on her pilgrimage through history. Casting away precious gifts from the inheritance of the saints, removing or watering down the means of sanctification passed down to us, is always bad, it can never be good. It bespeaks a loss of gratitude, a confusion of priorities, and an unchaste mingling with the spirit of the age, which is always opposed to the spirit of the Gospel.

Making it harder for Christians to sanctify time, to understand secular time in relation to sacred time, is always bad, it can never be good. Hence, the abolition of the millennium-old “Sundays after Pentecost”– by which most of the year was tied back explicitly to the great mystery of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh –and its replacement by “Sundays of Ordinary Time,” was simply a mistake, a deviation; it could never have been good. To have abolished the ancient season of Septuagesima, which helped Christians prepare for the rigors of Lent, was and is contrary to the good of the faithful.

To have flagrantly contradicted, deviously manipulated, or gratuitously exaggerated the directives of Sacrosanctum Concilium  in order to carry out a liturgical revolution that was neither debated nor desired by the council fathers can only have been bad, it could never be good. It was destined to be cursed by the just God, for such mendacity concerning His gifts and such violence done to them cannot be blessed.

Once modernism had invaded the sanctuary and permeated the liturgy, its victory was won. There was no need for explicit theological modernism at this point; it had triumphed by invading the nerve center of the religion and spreading its poison from there throughout the Church on earth. The battle against Modernism, in spite of the promising military exploits of Pope St. Pius X, has been lost, as regards the “new Church” that emerged after Vatican II. The only portion of the Church that is still fighting Modernism are the traditional enclaves that cherish and celebrate the Mass of our forefathers, the Mass of Trent, the Mass of the Roman Church back to St. Gregory the Great and before. This Mass, and all the sacramental rites surrounding it, perfectly enshrines and expresses the Catholic Faith in its full integrity, beauty, and incarnational transcendence. In its absence, that integrity is broken apart, that beauty is forgotten or denigrated, and the incarnational transcendence is surrendered to the suffocating secularism of modernity.

What the baptized have a divine right to, and what our children deserve for the good of their souls, is the liturgy as the Church herself gives it to us. Neither the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy nor the Novus Ordo Missae as promulgated by Pope Paul VI mandated or even so much as mentioned:

  • the priest facing the people;
  • the use of laity to distribute the sacred species;
  • the reception of holy communion on the hand and in a standing posture;
  • the involvement of women and girls in the sanctuary as substitutes for acolytes;
  • the virtual abolition of the Latin language;
  • the substitution of pop-style songs for the chanted Ordinary of the Mass and of vernacular hymns for the chanted Propers of the Mass.

All of these practices are post-conciliar innovations or novelties that fly in the face of Catholic tradition. They are notorious embodiments of what Pope Benedict XVI has called the “hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity” whereby Catholic doctrine, life, and worship have been divorced from longstanding (in some cases, even apostolic) Catholic tradition.

As a result, habitual attendance at such Masses is not a liturgical formation but more truly a liturgical deformation that disposes Christians to a false understanding of the Faith. I am speaking here in regard to the Ordinary Form; the praxis of the typical Western parish is a deformation even of that form of the Roman Rite, whichas the work of Gamber, Ratzinger, Dobszay, Mosebach, Pristas, and others has exhaustively shown—is itself a deformation of the Roman rite in what is now called its “Extraordinary Form.” In other words, those who attend the typical parish Mass are experiencing a doubly deformed liturgy: the celebration is deviant from its own rubrics and available elements of continuity, and in addition to that, it is an objective deviation from the traditional Roman liturgy. How is a well-formed and well-nourished Catholic supposed to emerge from this chaos of liturgical novelty and obscuration? There is no Christ without tradition. There is no Church without tradition. There is no liturgy without tradition.

Martin Mosebach has aptly spoken of the “hemorrhaging” of the Western church. To the extent that our children are miseducated by an already deformed liturgy celebrated in a deformed manner, we are contributing to the perpetuation of the problem, not to its providential solution, which consists either in returning wholeheartedly to the tradition or, at very least, celebrating the Ordinary Form as reverently, solemnly, and beautifully as possible. Practically, this will often be a question of the “lesser evil.” Most of us are not fortunate enough to be living near a parish or chapel staffed by the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, or some other such society, so the question will be: Which liturgy, within reasonable distance from where I live, is most in accord with Catholic Tradition? Where is the Ordinary Form celebrated with the fewest departures from the established norms? Where is its overall gestalt most Catholic in spirit?

Now, an objection could be raised to this line of argument: Isn’t it very important for children to experience a parish, to become acquainted with its families, to socialize after Mass, and so forth? Don’t they need to have that “horizontal” experience of the People of God in their locale? All things being equal, this would be true, and in optimal conditions it is true. But we are living in a crisis situation where the very meaning and identity of Catholic faith and life are at stake. The social good is a good indeed, but it pales in comparison to the good of divine worship, which more nearly touches on the infinite divine good itself. We are more obliged to cultivate faith, hope, and charity towards the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Trinity than we are to cultivate neighborly relationships, and when the latter stands in tension with the former, the former must be preferred. The proper formation of mind and heart by the power and sanctity of the Church’s liturgy is more urgent, more profound, and more lasting than social formation that may occur among parishioners at the local Novus Ordo parish. Naturally, if one is fortunate enough to find a traditional parish or chapel that also meets the children’s social needs, one is taking down two birds with one stone.

Pope Benedict XVI was fond of quoting St. Benedict: “Let nothing be put before the opus Dei,” that is, the worship of God. When we parents do as we are supposed to do in this regard, the Lord will add the rest on to us: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

10 thoughts on “Attending the Traditional Mass: Well Worth the Effort”

  1. Attending my first Traditional Latin Mass was what opened up my eyes finally to the true meaning of my faith, making me realize just how much I needed to change. Only recently did I realize how important right liturgy is, the damage the spirit of modernism has done, and how so many souls hang in the balance. Tradition has given me a supernatural faith and I am very blessed to be able to attend an FSSP parish. Keep up the great ministry 1P5. Deo gratias, indeed.

  2. Benedict do you have children, and do you have a parish that also meets the children’s social needs? When one has to travel up to an hour or more to the nearest reverent O.F. or E.F. parish, it is hardly practical to participate in the social life of the parish, unless it takes place right after Sunday Mass. How does one meet parents and children’s social needs in this situation? Thank you. PS A properly celebrated Ordinary Form Mass is even rarer and harder to discover than an Extraordinary Form Mass. At least there are listings for EF Masses. No parish advertises “We do the Liturgy Right!”

    • Have pot luck after the Mass. Spend some time together talking, socializing, letting the kids play together. Someone(s) have to take the initiative and start this. People have to eat sometime, so organize a meal. Remember to help clean up afterwards, too. Your priest can stay and chat, too, and the parish can get to know him as well. The parish shouldn’t have to meet every need of everyone, but at least offer a place/time where people can meet and connect and hopefully these connections can carry on after the Sunday Mass. We do this at our parish, where the majority of the people who attend drive an hour or more to get there.

    • It took me years to “get it”, but let me be blunt salesgirl as a mom of four. Mass is not a social. That’s what playdates/school/culdesacs are for.

        • Hi Sales girl, sorry I don’t want to misunderstand you, or create division. Let me offer the similar issue my husband and I went round and round on. This year we had to make the sad call of no longer attending Mass at our registered parish, where our children are also enrolled in the parochial school. Our social ties there are huge. We have tried with little success to help the pastor “be not afraid” and improve the reverence, it’s too draining. Week after week, the liturgical abuses were increasingly upsetting, had to keep explaining to our children”yeah that Schutte hymn was NOT suitable for Holy Communion,” the cantor thought Mass was her American Idol try out, the priest gives dramatic feel good homilies 20 minutes long, and spends 10 seconds elevating the consecrated host, you get the idea. But leaving the parish didn’t seem “practical”, so we now attend Sunday Mass at the more reverent parish farther away. It’s a pain to get to, we know few people there, but oh gosh no more Protestants hijacking the liturgy. Everytime we go back to attend Mass (bad weather, time issue) at the feel good parish we come home dazed and confused. Hope that helps, have a blessed Easter.

  3. I have been attending Mass in the extraordinary form off-and-on for the last few years. I also have been blessed to frequent a parish both with the Anglican Use and an ordinary form Mass “done right”: priest ad orientem; propers and ordinary chanted in Latin; Gospel sung with a solemn procession; Holy Communion kneeling, on the tongue, by intinction (which I love, and think would be a good enrichment to the extraordinary form). So while I have been familiar with meeting God in the rituals of our tradition, I don’t know if I really “got” the gravity of such events.

    That is, until I served at an EF sung Mass for the first time this past Sunday. What an awe-inspiring experience it was, let me tell you. To be able to serve our Lord so intimately was incredible. I wish I could do it more often. If only we hadn’t scrapped the old ways so willy-nilly, maybe the mess of which we’re in the midst wouldn’t be quite so large.

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